We Passed the Test!

Last week we had the opportunity to put to the test one of the reasons we made the move to Florida a year ago. Most people, as they age, need some type of help or support. Those of us who live with disability in our families often need the help much earlier, and for a longer period in life. We did not want to wait to move until our post retirement years and be the needy newcomers. Our goal was to move while we still had time and energy to build friendships, be involved and give back in our community. Our hope was when the time came and we needed help it came based on our relationships.

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Beside being the anniversary of when we purchased our home here, this past week was also the first time since moving that we both got sick at the same time. It didn’t start out that way, but I joined Jerry in being ill just a few days after him. A perfect time for an emergency test of our community building skills.

Do you know what happened? Neighbors and friends from church brought food. Many prayed for us – even coming to our front door to pray over us and the house. People offered to run grocery store or pharmacy errands for us. Someone helped create a temporary fix for a vehicle problem until we could get it repaired.

I get it. This does not sound like a world-shattering experience or revelation. At least it should not be. This is how healthy communities function. But I’ve been in both the disability world and church world long enough to have heard the stories from families affected by disability who feel so alone, it seems no one sees or hears them, or misses them when they are absent. That is heartbreaking, but it does not have to be fatal.

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Please allow me a couple observations:

1) For families affected by disability, I know we may not have the time, energy or resources we perceive others do. First, perceptions are apples and oranges comparison, so let it go. But more importantly, how are you building into your community? It is unfair to expect everyone to see us and help with our needs if we don’t also make an effort to see them. It might start with a phone call just to ask someone else how they are doing. Or a quick email or FB post following up on something in their lives. Sometimes our community doesn’t know how to help, building a relationship will open understanding. We need to be willing to embrace others before we expect them to embrace us.

2) For the community person who is not affected by disability; Families affected by disability can’t always articulate our needs or be particularly grace filled when expressing them, some days it is just too much. Please don’t let us turn you off. We need you. If our name comes to mind, offer a prayer for us, drop a plate of cookies off, send off a thinking of you email, or call as you head to the grocery store to see if we need anything.

To our community and tribe, thank you! We love you and are so grateful for your love and care for us.family colorful group

To those wishing they had a community like ours, what is one thing you can do this week to build on a relationship in your circle?

A Puzzling Move

“Never again!”  Those were the words my husband emphatically spoke after our last move 19 years ago. Jerry was not saying we would never move again. His declaration referenced that we would never move again without professional help.

Nearly two decades later there is not one room in our house that does not have boxes.  Some are full, many more yet to be taped up for use. And there are no professional movers in sight, at least not yet. In fact, the nature of this change is that we know where we are moving, and why, but we don’t exactly know when. There are scores of shifting parts to synchronize. Everything may come together tomorrow, or it may be a couple more months. For a planner like me this is the ultimate challenge.

My home office has become “moving central.” It is where all the supplies are kept and where boxes come on their way to the garage. Furniture being given away or sold rests in my office until the new owner comes to claim it. And yes, I still carry out my job functions in this room.  My little corner counter holds my computers and Bibles. Active work projects are strategically placed so my back is to the moving madness and my eyes catch the beauty outdoors.

But that’s not the best part. If you were to walk in to my office now you might remark as most people do, “You still have a puzzle set up in the middle of all this?”

Why yes, yes I do.

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I started this puzzle before my office took on the packing motif. As the piles grew around it I thought about giving up on the puzzle. Only partly because of space. There was also the fact that I was stuck. There were too many similar colors, and strangely shaped pieces. I wanted to call it quits.

But I couldn’t. Somehow, I felt that if I could walk in and see that puzzle, a favorite form of relaxation for me (even when stuck), all was ok. I needed the mental picture that my life did not have to be consumed by the myriad of details swirling around and inside me. It is a visual of peace to me in what often feels like a raging storm. I wish I could say I acted on that thought and took some breaks, but I didn’t. . . until my ten-year-old neighbor came over.

Becca saw the puzzle and noted it wasn’t any further along than the last time she visited. Since the next day had already been called a snow day she came over to help me.

For an hour, Becca and I worked the puzzle and shared our lives with one another.  Together we got past the hurdle of “none of these pieces fit together!”  Becca’s company and help inspired me so much that the next night I decided to not tend to any moving, household or work tasks.  Instead I spent several hours puzzling. This time not about how to get everything done, but real jigsaw puzzling.

The puzzle is not yet complete, but I moved it forward from about 40% finished to about 80% done. More importantly, I was reminded that a beautiful puzzle picture is IMG_5180made up of thousands of small, some very odd shaped, pieces. It may take some time, but as each piece is placed where it belongs the picture becomes clearer.

That puzzle is a picture of my life right now. No not the idyllic country scene with kids flying kites, dogs running and ladies gardening.  Rather, the thousands of pieces of our life and move will come together in God’s timing, and what an incredible masterpiece they will make. As much as I love to make lists and want every detail accomplished tomorrow (though yesterday would be preferable), that is not the path God has me on right now.

I look forward to the day when the pieces that now look like they will never fit anywhere will someday click and I’ll exclaim, “oh, that’s where that was supposed to go.” Thank you, God, that your picture is grander than anything I try to piece together.

Waiting for Help

My post last week on “To Help or Not to Help” generated some great conversation on Facebook and WordPress. Thank you. Some of you noted that it is helpful to either ask, or wait to be asked if the other needs our assistance. I could not agree more.

When Jerry asks for help I may tell him yes, but ask if he can he wait a few minutes, and vise versa. We each know the tone in the other’s voice that indicates help is needed without any delay.

I thought I’d follow up this week with a (now) humorous anecdote on waiting for help.

It was a Friday several years ago when Jerry took a day off and I went into the office. He had already called me twice throughout the day asking me to come home when I had a few minutes to help him with something. Thankfully we lived less than a mile from the office so it was not a big deal.

When his third call of the day came midafternoon I decided to pack it in and just work the remainder of the day from home.  He asked for me to come help because he was stuck in the middle of the living room unable to move. He thought his wheelchair batteries died. I asked him the usual questions.

Are you safe?  Yes.

Can you wait 15 minutes while I wrap up this one project and then pack up to come home for the day?  His answer was yes to that too.

When I got home this is what I saw.

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I again asked what happened and if he was ok.  He still said yes and wondered why I asked.  I then described that his front wheels were off the ground and his foot rests were hung up on the recliner.  He had no idea!  He wanted a picture to see what I was describing.

Gathering every ounce of strength I had I pulled him backwards and got all his wheels on the floor.  Then we took deep breaths, and tried to figure out what happened.  We think he was reclining in his chair and somehow jammed the joystick and recline features together.

Thankfully that has never happened again.  Thankful too that he really was ok to wait for me to get home, though once he realized what happened he wished he had not said to take my time.

I know we’re not the only ones who have funny disability mishaps – how about sharing one of yours with me please?  arrow-1538686_1920